Odysseus’ Candy Fleece: How to Make Handmade Cotton Candy (WITHOUT Chopping Up Your Whisk!)

Posted August 27, 2015 by Alison's Wonderland Recipes in The Odyssey (Aug 2015) / 2 Comments

Cotton candy, candy floss, fairy floss: whatever you call it, it’s the perfect dessert for our Odyssey menu. I thought of it immediately when I read about Odysseus’ clever use of sheep to escape the cyclops, Polyphemus. But homemade cotton candy can be intimidating when you don’t have a machine, especially when every recipe you come across requires you to cut the end off your balloon whisk. I knew I didn’t want to go chopping up perfectly good utensils, so I did some experimenting…and I’m proud to announce that no whisks were harmed in the making of this recipe! I recommend buying a special kind of whisk called a ball whisk with silicone ends (available here). You get the same results as a trimmed balloon whisk, and you can use it like you would a regular whisk in most other situations.

P.S. The recipe used here is inspired by one I found at Edible Experiments.


Candy Fleece

“Thus, then, did we wait in great fear of mind till morning came, but when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, the male sheep hurried out to feed, while the ewes remained bleating about the pens waiting to be milked…but their master in spite of all his pain felt the backs of all the sheep as they stood upright, without being sharp enough to find out that the men were underneath their bellies. ”
— The Odyssey




  • Ingredients:
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 1/2 cup corn syrup
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1/8 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (you can use whatever flavor you want, but vanilla is what contribute to the traditional cotton candy flavor)
    • 4 drops food coloring (I used yellow, in keeping with the fleece theme)
  • Supplies:
    • 1 ball whisk (available here)
    • food thermometer
    • pastry brush
    • silicone mats (two or more is best)
    • 10 kabob sticks (mine were 7 inches)
    • 2 glasses (about 3 inches shorter than your kabob sticks)

Makes approx. 10 cotton candy pops



      1. In a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt. Put it on medium heat and stir continuously until the sugar is dissolved (this should only take a few minutes).
      2. Stop stirring and clip your thermometer to the pan (making sure the rod isn’t touching the sides or bottom of the pan). Let the candy continue to heat undisturbed until it reaches 315°. This will probably take a little while (10 minutes or so). If sugar crystals begin to develop on the sides of the pan, dip your pastry brush in a cup of water and brush the crystals away.

        You can let the candy temp get as high as 320°, but don’t let it go beyond that (if it does, rinse out your pan and start over. If it cooks beyond a certain point, the strands become very brittle and sharp when they harden…basically sugar needles, which are about as pleasant as they sound. A lower temperature will result in suppler, more delicate strands.
      3. While you wait, set up your candy making station. Start by arranging your silicone mats on your counter. Put one in the center to be your “main mat,” where you’ll be aiming your whisk. Place the others anywhere you anticipate the most stray sugar will fall (this will help cut down on clean up later).  Place your kabob sticks and glasses to one side where they’ll be quick and easy to reach.
      4. When the candy is ready, pour it into a heatproof container. Stir in your extract and food coloring. From this moment on, you’ll need to move quickly.
      5. Dip your ball whisk into the candy. Hold it with the tip pointing downward 1 foot above your center mat. Flick your wrist side to side as quickly as you can (like a fast brushing motion). This will create a line of thin candy strands across the center of your mat. Do this until no more strands come from the whisk. Repeat the dip and flick process 3-4 times, until you have a lot of strands gathered in the center of your mat. Place a kabob stick on the mat and roll as many strands as you can onto the top.

      6. When the strands gathered on the kabob are a little bigger than a tootsie pop, place it in one of the glasses and repeat Step 5 for your remaining 9 cotton candy pops. You don’t want to make them much bigger, or they’ll be too top heavy, causing them to fall off the stick or tip over the glass. You should be able to fit 5 per glass.

        It’s part of the character of homemade cotton candy to be coarser than machine-made candy (think the difference between thread made on a spinning wheel vs thread made in a factory). Still, the more practice you have, the closer you get to those super fine strands that melt in your mouth. I made this recipe twice, and after the first couple pops in my second batch, I was getting really fine strands. And the finer the strands become, the closer you get to that traditional cotton candy flavor!
      7. Serve as a post-escape celebration snack after surviving the deadly Cyclops!

        Let’s talk clean up: hardened candy can be a MAJOR pain to get off pans, counter tops, and even lower quality silicone mats. When you’re done, my advice is to fill your sink with hot soapy water and place your pans it to soak, making sure they’re completely submerged. Lay your mats out on a clean surface and place paper towels dampened with hot water over any place where the candy refuses to come off (do the same thing with any stubborn candy drips on your counters). Let everything sit for 2-4 hours, rewetting the paper towels if necessary. After that, the candy in the pans should be completely dissolved, and the drips on the mats and counters should be a lot easier to wipe away. It takes time, but it’s WAY easier than scrubbing like crazy!
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2 responses to “Odysseus’ Candy Fleece: How to Make Handmade Cotton Candy (WITHOUT Chopping Up Your Whisk!)

  1. Even though this recipe is too ambitious for me, I had to read it and comment because it so beautiful!! I wish you could make these for my son’s birthday party coming up! As for the tough clean up, maybe Bar Keepers Friend can help? Great post!

    • Thanks! Honestly, making cotton candy intimidated me too at first (flicking melted sugar everywhere! EEEP!). In the end, it actually didn’t take long to get the technique down, but I think this is one of those recipes people should try once for fun before deciding to do it “for real.” Then you have more confidence and less stress when results matter.

      I’ve actually never heard of Bar Keeper’s Friend, but after looking it up, it sounds amazing! I may have to grab me some for the next time I made cotton candy.

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